This message was designed to do one thing: challenge people to decide to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
Part of what prompted it was a conversation with one of the pastors on our staff, Scott Palmbush. We were talking about conversion stories, and Scott was mentioning how often in "Presbyterian culture" people are more or less socialized into faith. They kind of drift into church attendance and some level of involvement, and may struggle with getting clear on whether or not they've actually made a commitment.
So it's a very simple message, and the structure is very lean. The whole thing is built around this one distinction: being an admirer versus being a follower.
Just having watched the Olympics made the opening pretty simple. And the distinction flowed easily out of the text. We were finishing a series on the Sermon on the Mount, and one of the dynamics there (and throughout Matthew) is the distinction between the 'crowds' and the 'disciples'. Both of them are present—in an ambiguous way—at the beginning and the end of the sermon.
Plus, the entire back end of the sermon is a series of relentlessly contrasting images designed to force people into a choice: the broad way or the narrow way.
I also found it helpful to think about specific people that I'd put in the 'admirer' category so I could name some of those characteristics that would help folks recognize themselves.
Always through the message I kept looking for ways to keep the tension up between admirers and followers. I thought of it as a narrowing process that kept eliminating alternatives, so that people would recognize the need to eventually choose one way or the other.
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